“I want to play professional baseball as long as I can, because I love it. I want to be able to be a person that is remembered because he played the game the right way and hard, like Derek Jeter did.”

In anything you do in life, the ultimate goal is to showcase your abilities at the highest level.

Meet Ke’Bryan Hayes, an 18-year-old senior at Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas. Ke’Bryan committed to Tennessee in the fall of his freshman year, but could soon have the opportunity to play at a much higher level.

Hayes began the year outside of John Manuel’s ‘Top 50 Draft Prospects’ list put together on Baseball America, but the Tennessee commit has begun to climb the rankings. The 6’1” senior has been flying up drafts boards following a strong summer showing with the gold-medal-winning Team USA at the 18U Pan-American games, as well as an appearance in the 2014 Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field. The senior is now ranked 31st on Manuel’s list, and has only ascended as newer ones have come out.

Although the top prospect has excelled in high-profile events—such as the ones listed above, and more—his rise in stock can be credited largely to a change in his approach at the plate. A change in approach that took place during his junior year, as well as this past summer. “Some guys were telling me” Hayes described, “that they wanted to see a little more power, extra-base hits, doubles, stuff like that. I just try to go up there and be aggressive early in the count. I try to think gap to gap, left-center to right-center, keep everything middle-middle and react to off-speed.” That type of power is one of the areas that Hayes felt he is most improved in, along with foot quickness on defense.

However, the youngster also discussed how the greatest improvement he made last summer was his increase in confidence. Hayes—who was 17 when he played at Wrigley field for the Under Armour All-America game—felt that those types of experiences he encountered this summer gave him the confidence to feel like he belonged there:

“This summer was a confidence booster for me. After being out there and able to play with the best kids, it made me more confident. It made me feel like I belong out there with the best, with the other kids that are being called the best players. I just think that I have a lot more confidence when I’m out there on the field now.”

And while confidence has helped him improve the mental side of his game, his offseason workout routine will surely help him improve the more physical portions—which can be credited to an affinity for mountain bikes.

Hayes talked about how he would typically work out at a place called Tomball Sports Medicine, but last fall he was unable to go as much as he usually does—something he cited as a repercussion of very busy run on the summer circuit. “Because I played in the Pan-American games on the 18U team,” Hayes described, “I missed like a whole month and a half of school. I had to get a tutor to get caught up.” He then went on to talk about how he usually plans his workouts during his off-seasons:

“Hitting-wise and groundballs and stuff like that, I definitely do that a lot in the fall and during the season. But during the season like, weight-wise, I just kinda keep it light and just hit more and do groundballs—but I still do a little bit of weights. A big thing that helped me get my body in shape from probably my sophomore to senior year, I started riding mountain bikes. That really helped me out.”

As a matter of fact, Hayes—who felt that overall speed was the area he could most improve—added that he would likely “go ride his bike” on draft day to get it off of his mind.

Speaking of draft day, it’s not a stretch to imagine that it might be tough for a player of Hayes’ caliber to remain focused on the current game that’s in front of him as opposed to his future. However, that’s not the case.

Hayes explained how right now his goal is to just “go out there with [his] teammates that [he] played with since [he] was young and try to block it out.” He then went on to talk about how, right now, all he’s worried about is “[Playing his] normal game” and that in doing so, “things will work out like they will supposed to.”

What’s interesting is that Hayes feels that the best aspect of his game is not one of the five tools, but a high baseball IQ. And while Hayes plays the game with a lot of baseball maturity, it should be noted that he probably learned so because of the great upbringing he had.

Ke’Bryan comes from a very rich baseball background. At home, his father is former 14-year veteran Charlie Hayes, and his brother, Tyree, was an eighth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of course, Charlie is the player who caught the last out of the 1996 World Series for the New York Yankees—a reason Ke’Bryan cited as to why he liked the Yankees as a kid. At school his coach, Rick Lynch, has coached notable players such as Chris Hermann, Jose Cruz Jr., and Bubba Crosby.

“It’s definitely an advantage” Ke’Bryan explained, “Ever since I was little I’ve always listened to [my dad]. I’ve just tried to soak in as much as I could from him, because I know he knows what it takes.”

As for the expectations that Ke’Bryan likely has because his dad was such a notable major leaguer, the 18-year-old spoke to an ability to block it out. “By him playing,” Hayes described, “Everyone else expects you to be good. As I was younger it was kinda tougher on me, but now I sometimes forget that he even played. I just try to block it out, go out there and play.”

When asked if Hayes had adopted a leadership role with his high school team, the senior explained how he’s more of a non-verbal leader. “I’m not really a verbal, really loud person,” Hayes said. “I think the way I carry myself on and off the field, I think I can lead by my actions that I display.”

And while the third baseman also pitches—throwing upper 80’s off of the mound—it’s unlikely he’d want to pitch at the next level. Hayes reasoned that he couldn’t see himself being a pitcher and “playing one game and then sitting out five,” adding that he had to be on the field playing every day, affecting the game in a positive way.

Speaking of playing, I mentioned previously that Hayes had the opportunity to play for many top-level teams last summer. When asked which one was his favorite, Hayes immediately responded with the USA 18U team that competed in the Tournament of Stars. “That had always been one of my goals since I was able to make one of those teams,” said Hayes. “Just being able to go out there and wear USA across my chest. To represent my country in another country and win the gold medal. That was awesome.”

Finally, Hayes—whose favorite player is Hanley Ramirez—described how his ultimate career goal is to play professional baseball in a way that he can be remembered for his hard-work and tenacity. “I want to play professional baseball,” Hayes proclaimed, “as long as I can because I love it. I want to be able to be a person that is remembered because he played the game the right way and hard, like Derek Jeter did.”

Due to his work ethic, baseball smarts, and family influence, it’s clear that Ke’Bryan Hayes has a very bright future ahead of him.

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